On Tuesday, January 12, 2010, a catastrophic earthquake occurred approximately 16 miles (25 km) west of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. The earthquake caused major damage to Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area. The International Red Cross estimates that three million people were affected by the quake, with as many as one million Haitians left homeless. Casualty estimates continue to climb. Due to the widespread devastation and damage, vital infrastructure necessary to respond to the disaster has been severely damaged or destroyed. A spokeswoman from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs called this the worst disaster the UN has ever confronted. By the end of January Society of Typographic Aficionados(SOTA) announced the launch of Font Aid IV, a project uniting the typographic and design communities in raising funds to expedite relief efforts in Haiti. Type designers, graphic designers and other artists from around the world were invited to contribute artwork to be included in a typeface created exclusively for the Font Aid IV effort. The theme of Font Aid IV is "Coming Together" which is represented though a font consisting entirely of ampersands. Coming Together will be made available for sale, with all proceeds going to Doctors Without Borders.
Sadly a few unkind comments on Twitter suggested that people should simply donate money and not impose on the type designers' valuable time. If you rationalise it this kind of reaction may seem logical, yet it fails to recognise a fundamental need for some people to do something tangible. Instead of just contributing financially, they want to make a personal statement as well as prove their solidarity from within a specific demographic. And the outpour of support from the type and graphic design community has been overwhelming, with results dramatically exceeding expectations. Nearly 400 people from 37 countries submitted designs to Font Aid IV. This surpasses the number of submissions for the previous Font Aid III project by almost 180. Many of the ampersands could be previewed on Typophile.
The participating countries include: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Croatia, Czech Republic, El Salvador, England, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Siberia, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Ukraine, United States, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Amongst the participants one can find household names and fresh new talent in type design like Alejandro Lo Celso, Alejandro Paul, Brian J. Bonislawsky, Christophe Badani, Claudio Piccinini, Dino dos Santos, Donald Beekman, Eduardo Manso, Fabrizio Schiavi, Gert Wiescher, James Grieshaber, James Puckett, Jean François Porchez, Jim Rimmer, Joachim Müller-Lancé, John Downer, Kent Lew, Mark Simonson, Martin Majoor, Matt Desmond, Michael Doret, Neil Summerour, Paul Hunt, Randy Jones, Richard Kegler, Stefan Hattenbach, Stefan Kjartansson, Steve Matteson, Stuart Sandler, Tomi Haaparanta, Veronika Burian, Viktor Nübel, Xavier Dupré, to name but a few.
Michelle Perham, who helps co-ordinate the project for SOTA, testifies:
The response we've gotten to this is wonderful. We received so many nice emails. One designer was especially interested because his father worked for Doctors without Borders; a teacher in Oregon made participation in Font Aid a class project. There are so interesting stories out there.
The designers who contributed to the project will be credited for their work wherever possible – unless they've indicated they wish to remain anonymous. Chank Diesel is doing an amazing job behind the scenes compiling the submissions into an OpenType font, which is sold for US$20 through several international font distributors, also FontShop. All money raised will be donated to Doctors Without Borders in support of their work in Haiti. SOTA, a US-based non-profit, is acting as a non-partisan organizing body to help co-ordinate the effort and ensure all funds are distributed appropriately.
Font Aid: a Brief History
Swedish type designer Claes Källarsson conceived the initial Font Aid project in 1999. More than 25 type designers participated in designing a collaborative font, with proceeds going to UNICEF to help war and disaster refugees. In 2001, SOTA became involved when Stuart Sandler was inspired by Källarsson's efforts and initiated Font Aid II. This second collaborative charitable typeface was created to benefit the victims of the September 11 tragedies in the US. The font was made up of almost 100 question mark glyphs contributed by designers from over 20 countries. In 2005, The Society of Typographic Aficionados (SOTA) and Building Letters joined forces in Font Aid III to unite the typographic and design communities in raising funds to expedite relief efforts in countries affected by the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunamis. More than 220 designers worldwide submitted over 400 glyphs for the collaborative typeface. With the type and graphic design community's support, Font Aid can continue its efforts to assist others in dire need of aid.